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Why I want to love Android launchers, but don't

Why I want to love Android launchers, but don't

Android launchers are fascinating. They appeal to the part of me that wants to be original and creative and make my phone look and feel like nobody else's. I really want to love them – I even co-curate our best Android launchers list – but there's something about them that means I just can't. 

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You can get cool 3D effects with launchers. Supposedly. / © ANDROIDPIT

Bloat and advertising

Often, when I download what looks like an awesome new launcher and apply a fancy new theme, I find that I then have to download a bunch of extra content to make it look as advertised. It's like buying a LEGO Millennium Falcon only to discover that half of the pieces aren't included in the box. 

Not all launchers are like this, of course, but I am less attracted to those the ones that don't let me theme my device. It’s such a shame when the initial package looks so darn good. 

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Note the promoted apps that come pre-packaged with the launcher. / © ANDROIDPIT

What's worse are the launchers that promote other apps and services quite unnecessarily. Hey, don't get me wrong, Pocket, for example, is a cool app. But I don't need Pocket for the launcher to work or look good. This type of covert marketing is all too common among launchers and I'd prefer just to pay for an app outright. 

Missing pieces

Imagine you're sitting with a jigsaw puzzle of Monet’s Japanese Footbridge. The swirling colors are dancing across your eyes, a ballet of emotions moving inside of you. But, some of the jigsaw pieces are not of the Japanese Footbridge, some are of Picasso's Blue Room. Why are these other pieces in your box? 

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The extra Chromecast and Blogger icons just don't look as impressive as the rest (left). Unified icon frames is one solution to this (right). / © ANDROIDPIT

And so we come to another problem with launchers, or more specifically, the problem with additional icon packs. These icon packs are often masterfully rendered and are very smartly designed improvements upon the app icons we know and love.

But there are always icons missing from the set. You will always find a less common app that the designer hasn't converted into the fancy new app style: and these hurt. It only takes one out of place piece to ruin this beauty.

Performance and battery worries

Maybe I’m paranoid, but I always fear that a launcher – an app that fundamentally changes how your device looks and feels – will have a significant impact on performance and battery life.

There are arguments that launchers can speed up your interface and I confess that I have observed this myself. But there's a nagging doubt in my mind that my battery is forever worse off as a result.

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A really cool launcher, icon pack and wallpaper combo (left) but why do I have to install a memory cleaner with it? / © ANDROIDPIT

Final thoughts

Not all launchers are guilty of the above and I genuinely would love to start using one full-time. If you have any advice, or can recommend any solid launchers and themes, let me know in the comments or you can catch me on Twitter @scottadamgordon.

Or just say hello and tell me to stop worrying so much.

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  • nova is the best

  • Hey man, I love launchers, but all of your points are soooo relatable! I completely understand you.

  • rick Mar 7, 2016 Link to comment

    i have tryed bout 20 launchers, the one that has stayed on my S5 throughout all the experimentation, is the Buzz launcher. i like how you can put up to 9 sceens on it. i have 5, dont need 9. but each screen can have a different wallpaper, i havent had any other launcher be able to do that. folders can be any design, or color, apps can be made to look like any photo in your gallery, i took a photo of a beautiful clock, and used that photo to be my app for my alarm clock. my contacts app is a photo of members of my family. its realy different, and there are plenty of themes, and icon packs to chose. change the colors of the badges your apps, background blurring, all kinds of shit. and its pretty smooth, lots of animations. try the Buzz launcher, it not too complicated, i also tryed lighting launcher, that one is really difficult, you build it from the ground up. but its also very customizable.

  • I received a Kobo Arc free, with a newspaper subscription, which comes with a ridiculous custom launcher designed solely to keep you reading their ebooks. After installing Nova Prime it's just like any other tablet and faster than with the built in one! I have several tablets and phones and with Nova installed the experience when moving from one to another is seamless.

  • Have you considered Nova Prime? I don't think anybody has mentioned that one yet ;)

    No but really, gotta agree with the Nova Prime shoutouts. It's clean and doesn't include the need to add their "cleaners" or "battery boosters" or their own store. They do require Tesla Unread if you want to have unread badge counts. It seems like the paid launchers have a better record of being more streamlined, easy on RAM and battery, and don't include bloatware.

    As far as free launchers, I liked ZenUI (made by Asus) a lot.

    TouchWiz isn't bad, but I've just gotten so used to Nova that whenever I go back to TouchWiz I realize that it's lacking much of the customization of Nova.

  • Takeaway message for the Democratic Republic of Androidpit: the people - so far - have spoken. Get Nova Pro. Theme it if- and as you will. I have, and expect all my friends who have any brains to do so as well.

  • Nova launcher premium. Min app icons. HTC weather widget. I keep folders as a swipe up to open and clear background everywhere else. Very clean a simple design. I love it.

  • Interesting Read~

  • Apex launcher and Belle Ui icon pack and Onca Clock Widget for an extremely battery efficient clock with moving seconds! The free versions contain all the goodies and no to little ads. I paid the pro ONLY to support them. Been using for like 2 years. Nova free doesn't give you gestures!
    In fact if you own a Samsung or Sony device, a custom launcher like Apex or Nova improves the performance and is more battery efficient than the stock one!

  • Paolo Feb 29, 2016 Link to comment

    Nova and Google Now Launcher are endgame. Why did you even bother with the 360/QQ/APUS/GO/BUZZ/(insert Chinese software firm's launcher) Launcher, and then complain that launchers are not working for you? That's like buying a Smart ForTwo as a usable car and then saying, "It's too small, it's too harsh, it's crap. I'd rather ride the subway than buy another car from now on." The same thing goes with using GO Launcher,...

  • Sonali Feb 29, 2016 Link to comment

    its a great launcher

  • KK Launcher. No additives or preservatives...just a great launcher.

  • Nokia Z Launcher
    Simple launcher that automatically put your recently used apps on homescreen, use gesture to search apps, no ads or 3rd party apps like cleaner/booster/market

  • Moussa Feb 28, 2016 Link to comment

    For me personally, Nova is the best.

  • Hello and stop worrying so much.

    My old Galaxy S3 (4 years old) works great with Nova Launcher Prime. It works even better with Marshmallow 6.0.1 on it. I put on Resurrection Remix rom on it- and got rid of all the Samsung crud.

  • Nova launcher is really the best layncher ever

  • I've played with a number of launchers before eventually settling on Google Launcher. Why this one? Because it does not require anything additional to install, provides vertical scroll in app drawer and searches any app efficiently. On home screen, swipe right (to move left) and Google Now sits right there. It took a moment or two to get used to the launcher, but has been some months now and I cannot imagine moving to any other launcher.

  • For me I use GO Launcher with Andy theme.

  • Use Nova Launcher Pro, it's cheap, no ads, no impact on the battery and as for the icon pack, I use "Flight" (if you like white minimal icons as I do)
    There are missing icons but you can replace them by the icons of other apps (I think there is over 1500 icons). Loads fit very well. It's only for the games that it becomes annoying so I have the stock icon for games

  • Nova is without question the best with Smart Launcher second. You can keep the rest of them.

  • downloaded so many launchers but don't like there advertising! but never find them any better than the Sony launcher so always revert back to it after a few days because it looks just as good as any other and with so many excellent Sony themes looks better

    • Ja I like the Sony themes too, they seem to customize more of the interface (like new sliders in the app drawer) more than most launchers. I just wish there weren't so many which are promotions for upcoming movies :/

  • I have used Smart Launcher Pro for years, now. Organizes your app drawer better than any other launcher, and easy to theme. And there are icon packs that mask unthemed icons, to give you a more uniform look.

  • storm Feb 28, 2016 Link to comment

    I like the Google Now Launcher. It doesnt' do all the theming but it bypasses the stupidity of most skinned launders from the manufacturer. I also like it's simplicity because I update my ROM often enough that reinstalling a themed launcher is more work than its worth.

    • Ahh okay. I think of it is one of the more boring Launchers, but when you put it like that, maybe it has a purpose. Like you say, cuts out some the ridiculous features of others skins, and it's clean.

  • I've tried countless launchers, but Google now launcher is still the best one out there.

  •   18
    Deactivated Account Feb 28, 2016 Link to comment

    Try Flow Home Beta it's quite different. Agree with the facts that's why now I am using Google Now.

  • Often I try a new launcher expecting great experience but returns to the same Samsung's default TouchWiz soon...I have never seen a more comfortable launcher though the others might have more features or something amazing..Being perfect in the little you have is more acceptable than having an imperfect bundle ... !

  • Samsung launcher works nicely now.

  • Thank you for this... I myself have always been curious but somehow never end up using a 3rd party launcher not even Google Now. I've been curious about Nova and perhaps one other... When I upgrade to a device with more internal memory i might consider trying a launcher.

    • Yes I think I might wait until I get my next device too. I just need to remember to install it and start customizing straight away so that I don't get too comfortable with the UI already on it!! :)

  •   8
    Deactivated Account Feb 28, 2016 Link to comment

    I use Nova because I loathe and detest the Google stock launcher! Have tried others, but Nova was the best for me and my Motorola.

  • Been a Apex user for years over multiple devices. Now I have my LG G4 I am running their launcher.

  • Dave Feb 28, 2016 Link to comment

    I'm pretty much the same - most are plagued by adverts & bloatwear, take up ridiculous amount of resources & put extra strain on the battery.
    And when diggings a bit deeper, you find that your default launcher is still there, running away in the background! I now find that I'm personally more happy with a no frills launcher after many years of using android devices.
    Less resources used, less chance of things going wrong & more resources available for running the Apps you like without things slowly grinding to a halt.

    Don't get me wrong, I still like to play & experiment & it's good that you can pretty much have the device looking any way you want it to - just haven't come across anything that really stands out and gives that "Wish I found that ages ago" factor.

    Think I'm in my scrooge mode.... bah humbug.... caffeine fix time me thinks ;-)

    • Haha have you still not found a launcher that suits you then??

      • Dave Mar 3, 2016 Link to comment

        Think it doesn't help that I own a few Android devices. So trying to find one that I

        a) Actually like
        b) Runs smooth on all devices
        - is the sticking point for me. It's the low end devices which are shy on storage & RAM where most of the problems arise (speed wise). And as I normally have numerous Apps open at the same time, the moment I install a different launcher, things slowly grind to a halt!

        Throw in the bl**dy App spammage, features that require additional downloads otherwise they don't work - ends up with me, making sure Mr Hammer isn't within reach ;-)

        If i'm honest though, I do actually like the default launcher (or as close to stock as google intended) - just a shame changing icons or the default font can't be changed in the standard settings....

        What's that? Caffeine time again? So be it.... i shall return, in a much more lively mode.. muwhahaha

  • Ryan Feb 27, 2016 Link to comment

    Nova Prime and Lightning Launcher are the class of the lot.

  •   24
    Deactivated Account Feb 27, 2016 Link to comment

    Great article and I use to have the same problem with launchers and they irritated me more than samsung's theme store and the childish themes they're supplying their customers. Like you said the adverts were a problem and Nova and the themes available were a bit boring that I came across in the play store. Currently I'm using Nova Prime with KLWP (Kustom Live Wallpapers Pro version) added onto Nova, nice themes you can customize yourself using the KLWP's interface and there's preset themes you can customize, menu colours, clocks etc. and best of all no adds. I must say the KLWP themes I came across were stylish and not something I have seen before with other launchers who look mostly like Lollipop/Marshmallow type themes with the same type of icons, KLWP is different imho.

    •   24
      Deactivated Account Feb 27, 2016 Link to comment

      Forgot to add some of the themes even incorporate maps on KLWP your current location on the map etc.

      • Yeah Nova Launcher Prime seems to be a good choice for people who have similar complaints to me. I've never checked out KWLP so I'll give it a go. Thanks :)

        Deactivated Account

  • nova is the number one launcher i recommended

  • I've been happy with Nova Launcher for a long time. I used it on my Samsung Note 3 and now on my Nexus 6P.

  • Try Nova Launcher with Nova launcher Prime and u will forget about all other ones. Just customise it according to your needs and have a backup of it and thats what you will love after setting it up.

  • I share the same thoughts. I try all of those launchers and I will always see myself with Google Now Launcher.

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